17 and Soaring: Maria Alavidze’s Bright Future in Artistic Swimming

Although only 17 years old, Maria Alavidze is far from being a rookie in artistic swimming. She first represented Georgia at the age of 13 at the 2019 World Youth Championships, and hasn’t stopped competing internationally ever since.

At this time, she has participated in two World Championships, two European Championships, and three European Junior Championships. At each of these events, the young Georgian athlete has steadily improved, paving her own way towards the top. And, she’s not done yet. 

Coached full-time by former Soviet national team member Manana Chankseliani since 2019, the young Georgian athlete is trending up, and now dreams of medals and of growing the sport even more at home.


Alavidze discovered artistic swimming in 2012 at the age of six. Back then, the sport itself was only two years old in the country; synchronized swimming hadn’t really taken a strong hold in Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union until 2010.

Her mom, Lika Bokeria, had been an artistic swimmer herself, and it felt only natural for her daughter to try it out. From the very beginning, she loved it and could always be found at the pool as a kid. As a matter of course, her first coach was her mother. At first, she didn’t think her daughter would dream of a professional career in the sport, but she quickly proved her wrong.

In 2014, the country hosted its first synchronized swimming competition, and eight-year-old Maria wasn’t about to sit at home while it happened.

“No one knew about me competing there, I decided by myself,” she said. “I was packing my bag in my room when my mom came in. She asked, ‘What are you doing? Where do you think you’re going?’ I just replied that I was going to the competition too! That I will compete and that I will do figures.”

The first international competition came a year later in Istanbul, Türkiye. Unfortunately, Alavidze felt sick that day and couldn’t perform to the best of her abilities. However, the simple pride of representing Georgia in her first competition was a feeling she will never forget.


She returned home full of big hopes and dreams, and started to increasingly work with coach Manana Chankseliani. The two coaching styles between her mother and Chankseliani greatly complemented each other. With the former, the sessions were more focused on endurance, while the latter liked to work on technique and better performance. 

They now spend five to six hours together daily, training in the capital city of Tbilisi. They usually start in the afternoon around 2:00pm and go well into the evening, polishing up details, technique, or staging new choreographies. 

In 2019, Alavidze placed 24th in solo and 25th in duet at the World Youth Championships, her first major international competition. Her European campaign started in 2021, when she finished sixth in solo and eighth in duet at the European Youth Championships. Gaining international experience year after year, her evolution has been outstanding, particularly at the junior level as she went from 19th in free solo in 2021 to fourth in 2023. 

In 2022, a chance encounter with Mayuko Fujiki, head coach of Spain’s national team, around a pool brought both Alavidze and Chankseliani to Barcelona. Fujiki had extended an invitation for the pair to come train with the Spanish squad, a team that has been amongst the best in the world for decades. They both gladly accepted, and headed to the Catalan city in May, knowing this experience could not only benefit them but also Georgian artistic swimming as a whole.

“This turned out to be a memorable and quality time spent together,” Chankseliani recalled. “We managed to experience a highly professional approach from Spanish athletes and coaches in the pool, and towards the development of artistic swimming. This allowed us to bring back home a great deal of expertise with us to be able to execute and spread this knowledge in Georgia.”

When recalling her time in Spain, Alavidze recognized it also gave her a strong boost of motivation and inspiration.

“In Spain, the national team taught me a lot of things that I still use today to correct and perfect my technique,” she said. “In Barcelona, I saw a real sports complex and how every national team should train. I wish to train like that one day in my country. Yes, I’m excited to bring Georgia to the finals, but my goals are more than that. I want more and more. It’s only the beginning, and I am proud to be part of it.”

Indeed a few weeks after that training camp, Alavidze went on to qualify to the final at the European Championships for the very first time. Artistic swimming fans had already taken note of her talent and performances in junior competitions, but she truly made a statement that summer in Roma. She ultimately finished 10th in the free solo event.

“It was the most memorable moment so far of my career,” she said. “I was in the final for the first time at a senior championship, I was so proud of myself. Actually, this competition is also one of my favorites because it was during my birthday. I turned 16 there and during the gala after my performance, everyone was cheering and singing happy birthday to me!”


In Georgia, artistic swimming is still in its infancy, but it is slowly developing. The resources aren’t comparable to the big artistic swimming powerhouses from around the world, but Alavidze’s international results paired with Chankseliani’s motivation have undoubtedly created momentum.

“Coming to the competitions in the capacity of head coach of the Georgian national team has ignited in me a passion for bringing up a younger generation of artistic swimmers of my home country,” Chankseliani said. “Looking back in time, I can say that artistic swimming was not on the level we would think and dreamed of. However, Maria appearing on a professional stage has given a spark to the sport in the country. With our joint efforts together with her and other professionals involved in the sport, the level has noticeably increased. Yet, it requires further development, for which we do our best on a daily basis.”

Besides her experience and success on the European stage, Alavidze also made her debut on the World Championships stage last summer in Fukuoka. While she received basemarks in the technical solo, dropping her to 24th, she came extremely close to the final in free solo and placed 13th.

“I was really nervous in Fukuoka,” she said. “I think it was a mentally hard competition for everyone as well as for me with the new rules. My goal was to be in the final, but something went wrong and with small mistakes, you can lose your spot. But I learned from my mistakes and I got stronger.”

Indeed, a mere seven months later, she was back at the World Championships in Doha. This time, she didn’t miss and qualified for both finals. Ultimately, she finished eighth in technical solo and 12th in free solo, historic rankings for Georgian artistic swimming.


The 2024 season is bound to be a busy one for both Chankseliani and Alavidze, who is also in her last year of high school and working on her university entrance exams to study sports medicine. 

The two will start at the upcoming World Cup in France before heading to the European Championship in Serbia in June. Then, they will travel to Malta for the European Junior Championship, then to Hungary for the World Cup Super Final, before ending the season in September in Peru at the World Junior Championships. Undoubtedly, Alavidze is hungry for more.

 “My goals for 2024 are to be on podium, do programs without basemarks, and bring to the judges my artistic impression, my character and my soul,” she said. “In this sport, what I like most is to express myself, my character, and bring to you my inner self. It was a little bit easier with old rules, but I want to do my program like a real lion, so everyone could see my real character in this solo.”

Over the years, Alavidze has mostly focused on solo and duet, the former being the event she has most drastically improved on. Since 2019, she’s faced some challenges to find a steady duet partner, but has been working with two teammates since last year: 17-year-old Ani Kipiani in the technical event, and 15-year-old Tekla Gogilidze in the free event. They all competed together at the Doha World Championships and look forward to improving together this season and over the coming years. 

“This year, we hold great hopes to see Maria stepping up on the podium,” Chankseliani said. “But as for the long-term, we clearly visualize ourselves being part of the contenders for the Olympics in 2028.” 


Cover photo: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia

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